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Washington State Patriotic Day

Honor the flag and show your patriotism Feb. 24

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"There was a need for not only the military and veterans, but the general American public, especially youth, to concentrate on and reaffirm their patriotism to the United States of America." - Maj. Gen. John Hemphill

For the third year, the Puget Sound Chapter of the Military Order of the World Wars (MOWW) will host the Washington State Patriotic Day to celebrate active-duty military personnel and veterans. The event, formerly known as Massing of the Colors, will be held Feb. 24 at Stadium High School in Tacoma.

The event will also celebrate the Feb. 22 birthdate of this nation's first patriot, Gen. George Washington.

"The purpose of Washington State Patriotic Day is patriotism for our country ... the United States of America," said event coordinator and retired Maj. Gen. John Hemphill. "Today, we owe and should continue to recognize that the patriotism of President George Washington was the foremost factor in the start of our country. His birthday is the beacon for this annual Washington State Patriotic Day."

The name was changed to Washington State Patriotic Day three years ago to emphasize the purpose of patriotism and the change of participation rules to entice more of the general public, including children, not only to attend but also to participate with their organizational colors and/or an American flag.

The Massing of the Colors ceremonies began back in 1919 by military officers who served in World War I, with the responsibility shifting to the MOWW in 1923.

"The general population fails to understand the importance of patriotism in supporting the basic ideals of the United States of America against those that wish to destroy our freedoms," Hemphill added. "There is a very real need for adults to reaffirm their patriotism and to also teach our youth the importance of patriotism."    

Washington State Patriotic Day consists of a patriotic ceremony honoring those who have served and are active in the U.S. military, and the event honors those who help to carry on the tradition of patriotism. It relies heavily on participating groups to help show off their patriotic pride, with an added bonus of cash prizes.

"Lincoln JROTC is inspired by each other because we are a family and want to accomplish this together," said Lincoln Senior JROTC instructor Sgt. 1st Class Donna Rayford. "Being a veteran myself, it was wonderful to see how far our military history has come and how much we have accomplished. I always encourage my students to participate so they will have the experience firsthand."

Lincoln JROTC will once again participate in this year's event and has an added sense of accomplishment after receiving a Top Three Spectator award at last year's event.

"Being chosen in the top three made my cadets feel like, mission accomplished," Rayford said. "My favorite part was watching my students assist and have the honor of carrying flags for so many service units."

During the event, cash prizes (up to $500) are awarded to the top three best spectator (participation) groups, and any attending group can be represented by simply donning an American flag instead of unit-specific flags like in year's past.

"To facilitate their participation, the participation rule has changed to carry only a display-sized American flag," Hemphill explained. "The door is now open for an adult and a youth to simply carry an American flag."   

Every event attendee, even those not donning a flag and participating in the competition, will still leave the event with an increased sense of pride for their country.

"The average person, to include school-age children, should leave the Washington State Patriotic Day event with loyalty to and zealous support of the United States of America regardless of religion, politics and other freedoms assured by our country," Hemphill said.

Comments from veterans and previous winners are evidence that the event is achieving its mission of increasing patriotism and pride in the military in the community.

"I have a high level of inspiration from the military, and I try to inspire my cadets to exhibit the same," Rayford said. "I always want them to be proud and respect the flags and what they symbolize, and I will encourage them to participate again this year, so that we can take first place again."

All patriotic organizations, including veteran, civic, fraternal, churches, school, scout and military that honor the American flag, are encouraged to participate. Adjustments will be made for young children and for those with special needs. For information and a Massing of the Colors participation application, contact Col. Carroll Dickson, preferably by email at or by calling 253.566.5870.

Learn more about this year's Washington State Patriotic Day & Massing of the Colors event by visiting

Washington State Patriotic Day & Massing of the Colors, 2 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 24, Stadium High School gymnasium, 111 N. E St., Tacoma, free, monetary prizes to be given for best participation; door prizes will be available, including a piece of the historic Berlin Wall,

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